I'll admit I expected not to like the latest from Santa Cruz, Calif.'s Sound Tribe Sector 9 (aka STS9). Much of the group's work has been lumped into the "electronic jam band" genre, which, as much as I wish I could, I just can't get behind. But a few spins of Ad Explorata shot down my assumptions pretty quickly.
This five-piece's take on instrumental, electronic-influenced rock is tight and airy without treading into cheeseball, noodle-y jam territory. It's a stimulating sound that's like a distant cousin of post-rock titans Tortoise, but it dabbles more heavily in downtempo and ambient, as well as experimental electronic and breakbeat. "Oil & Water" is one of the best examples of this musical gumbo, as it starts with a wall of synth noises, slips into a slinky beat and fluctuating bassline, and then morphs into a stoned-out trip-hop groove with floating keyboard tones and jazzy vibes.
Other tracks like "Central" and "EHM" feature nice shifts in timbre and dynamics, making this a release that doesn't bore easily. If you'd previously written off STS9 like I did, think again. My guess is that you'll be pleasantly surprised if you listen to this with an open mind.
Sound Tribe Sector 9 plays the Wilma Theatre Monday, Feb. 22, at 8 PM with Emancipator. $25/$21 advance.